Men’s basketball gains a local player
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This year, a highly touted first-year men’s basketball player is the buzz around campus due to his Vermont roots.
Ben Shungu, a 6-foot-2-inch guard, grew up locally in Burlington.
“I have a lot of support everywhere I go,” Shungu said. “Playing in front of your hometown, representing your community and state–it’s special.”
The youngest of five boys, Shungu comes from a family of basketball players, although his father played soccer as a child growing up in the Congo.
He idolized Allen Iverson, former all-star Philadelphia 76ers point guard when he was younger, according to Shungu.
Shungu gained his love of basketball from his older brothers and started playing when he was in the first grade.
“I decided I wanted to do basketball all the time,” Shungu said. “It was just my favorite thing to do, even if it was just shooting a sock into a basket.”
He attended Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington. There, he played four years of varsity basketball under coach Paul Pecor.
“Ben is one of those special players,” Pecor said. “He will do whatever it takes to win on any given night.”
“If we needed him to score, he would score. If we needed him to lock down their star player, he would defend. If we needed him to distribute the ball, he would pass.”
During his high school career, Shungu helped lead the Green Knights to state championships in 2013, 2014 and 2015, according to the Vermont Principals’ Association.
In his senior season, Shungu averaged 21.9 points per game, according to UVM athletics.
Despite these basketball accomplishments, Shungu works just as hard off the court as he does on it, according to Pecor.
“Ben is one of those kids that gets it,” Pecor said. “He knows that the NBA isn’t his future and he works hard in the classroom.”
Pecor went on to praise Shungu’s effort in general, saying he is constantly working hard to improve his game and academics.
UVM men’s basketball head coach John Becker had nothing but great things to say about Shungu.
“I followed him throughout his high school career,” Becker said. “He is a very impressive athlete who attacks and finishes at the rim.”
Becker also added how impressed he was with Shungu’s overall character, agreeing with Pecor’s words about his ability to do whatever it takes to win.
Current captain and teammate senior guard/forward Kurt Steidl also praised the first-year guard for his talents on the court and overall character.
“[Shungu] is a funny guy off the court,” Steidl said. “He plays really hard, and always is trying to do the right thing.”.
If there were any concerns about how Shungu’s talents would transfer to the Division 1 level, they were quickly put to rest.
“He’s adjusted well so far,” Steidl said. “I think he is going to be a really good player here.”
Shungu said he has had to adjust to the significant difference in competition between high school basketball in Vermont and the collegiate level.
“Growing up in Vermont, the competition isn’t as high,” he said. “The skill required here … it’s a whole other level.”
The team as a whole has high hopes of raising another conference championship trophy come mid-March.
From the looks of it, what once was a team that suffered a narrow defeat to Stony Brook University last March is poised to make a statement in the America East this winter.
Men’s basketball tips off their season Nov. 12 in Hamden, Connecticut as they take on Quinnipiac University in a non-conference showdown.
In addition to Shungu, Rice High School has produced other basketball players in the past.